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Why is Christine Michael Not the Packers’ Starting Running Back?

For the past three weeks, the Green Bay Packers’ starting running back has been James Starks, the 30-year-old veteran backup.

Starks is averaging 2.5 yards per carry on the year. He’s also coming off his busiest game of the year, in which he had 17 carries for 41 yards game (2.4 average) against the Eagles.

These are dismal numbers. It’s also visually apparent that Starks has lost a good deal of his speed. He no longer breaks tackles as before and he can’t seem to find any daylight to run to.

With a very good offensive line and with defenses having to focus on the passing prowess of Aaron Rodgers, 2.5 yards per carry is pathetic. It doesn’t even make defenses respect or bite on play-action fakes to a running back.

Christine Michael’s Last 10 Games As a Starter

After searching the entire preseason and half of the regular season, the Packers have — by dumb luck — acquired a viable alternative running back. Christine Michael was picked up by the Packers two weeks ago. He is not your garden variety practice squad player or midseason castoff. His athleticism and potential have been previously highlighted.

Michael started Seattle’s final two regular season games of 2015 and also their narrow 10-9 playoff win against the Vikings. In these three important contests, Michael had 16 carries for 84 yards, 17 carries for 102 yards and 21 carries for 70 yards – a commendable 4.7 average.

This year, Michael started seven games for the Seahawks and he averaged 4.0 yards per rush. He also caught 19 passes in those games. He then lost the job to Thomas Prosise, a promising rookie out of Notre Dame. Prosise had 17 carries against New England two weeks ago, though only for a 3.9-yard average. Thomas Rawls, who was expected to be the team’s top running back this year, then returned from injury and assumed the starter’s role. He averaged only 3.2 yards per rush in Seattle’s last game, a 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay — and he’s only averaging 2.7 yards per rush on the year.

In sum, over his last 10 starts, Michael has run for 703 yards on 161 carries – an average of 4.37 yards per carry. He’s done this as the lead rusher on a perennial Super Bowl contending team.

And that’s not all. He’s done it despite running behind what is arguably the league’s least experienced and least talented blocking unit. In that loss to Tampa Bay, the Seahawks started three rookies — a first-rounder, a sixth-rounder and an undrafted player. The most experienced of Seattle’s five starting linemen is tackle Bradley Sowell, who went undrafted in 2012 and has started just 18 games in the ensuing five years.

Will McCarthy Put Michael to Use?

Here’s what coach Mike McCarthy has to say about his newest running back:

“It’ll be nice to have him part of the rotation… We’ve just got to continue to work and plan. He’s fitting really nice. I’m glad he’s here, that’s for sure.”

Aaron Rodgers also has glowing words for Michael:

“He’s yet to be seen exactly in this offense, but what he’s done in other offenses has been pretty spectacular. I mean, he’s scored six touchdowns this year, which obviously would put him first on our squad,” Rodgers said this week. “He’s a change-of-pace back, very quick, very athletic, and he’s happy to be here… I’m excited about getting him out there.”

Given these comments, it’s safe to say Christine Michael is going to get loads of snaps against Houston, right? Sorry fans, nothing is safe to say based on McCarthy quotes. The above two statements were made on the Friday before the game against the Eagles – the game in which Michael’s “part of the rotation” consisted of one handoff for a four-yard gain.

Until I see Michael charging into Texans’ defenders with my own eyes, I’m just going to add him to the apparently endless list of running backs (Brandon Burks, Jhurell Pressley, Don Jackson, Knile Davis) who the Packers pursue and then fail to utilize. Michael, however, is a cut above this group. That’s not speculation – he’s proven it on the field… and Starks has proven quite the opposite.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. cris December 3, 2016

    It’s a little bit scary that Aaron Rodgers is so out of touch he thinks C-Mike is a “change-of-pace” back, isn’t it???

  2. Mike Ditka's Mom December 3, 2016

    Uh, cause he needs to learn the fucking offense first? Please, go back to telling us how bad Davante Adams is why he should be cut.

    Ooooooh, riiiiiiiiight.

    1. MJ December 4, 2016

      Well, Casey Hayward, Damarius Randall and Quentin Rollins send their regards to you… is it reasonable to give a guy (Adams) so many opportunities at the team’s expense just to prove that he could eventually be serviceable? We spent a year and a half witnessing his drops. But did, for example, Janis get as many opportunities after a mistake? No, he was sent to warm the bench. Currently, how the heck do you explain Starks getting the carries he is getting after posting a sustained below-3ypc? The other guys were just let go after a handful of carries (Presley, Davis, Crocket). I don’t know if it’s McCarthy playing his guys or getting instructions from above (TT) on who should play more and who should play less. Either way, the lack of true competition hurts the team as a whole.

    2. Empacador December 4, 2016

      Don’t be an ignorant fuck. Davante Adams did suck, and the jury is still out as to whether he will revert to being the guy who dropped everything thrown his way. Show us where you were standing behind Adams while everyone was calling for his head. Otherwise STFU.

  3. Howard December 4, 2016

    Until any running back understands the blitz pickups and can actually pass pro then they will not see much if any time on the field. You can say all you want about MM, and some is valid, however MM wants to avoid Rodgers taking unnecessary hits. MM is MM, but he is no Mike Martz. Until another back besides Starks and now Rip show they can protect Rodgers when needed they will not see the field often. The real error started in the offseason when the Packers did not bring in at least one more running back that can both Pass pro and run the ball efficiently.

    1. Empacador December 4, 2016

      Howard, you are right and I think that is part of the problem. If they are simply going to run the ball like McCarthy wants, there should be no blitz pickup if the ball is to be handed off. Surely guys who have been running the ball forever can have the plays dumbed down enough to where they can be told in essence what hole to hit without all the added verbiage to complicate the learning curve. Not every play needs to have a myriad of options. This simply proves McCarthy is more concerned with his system than utilizing players to their best ability.

      1. Howard December 4, 2016

        You are right MM is concerned about the system. No matter what MM says he is going to pass more than run unless the weather dictates otherwise or the team is trying to run the clock to close out a game, and we know how that works some of the times.

        When MM runs a series that is intended to keep the defensive personnel on the field with no substitutions, then the back you put in needs to be capable of protecting Rodgers. The problem is that back will also get some runs when you may have a 15 play drive. So far it appears that back is Starks and his low ypc. Have not really watched closely if Ty has had problems in pass Pro. My guess is he has had problems and that is why he is not the back as much as many would like to see.

        1. PF4L December 4, 2016

          Without writing a novel…..Even if Micheal is in for a run play, he needs to understand what’s going on, where the protection is going, etc. If Rodgers audibles out, he can’t be back there wondering what’s going on.

          I think it comes down to knowing all the verbiage basically.